How to prepare for a sod installation job.

Taking that step from simply offering lawn mowing to offering larger landscaping projects can bring in more money but they might also test your abilities and knowledge base. Here is a great discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum about what you need to do if you are hired to install sod on a customer’s property. A few tips from the experts on how to prepare for a sod installation, will surely help you get great results.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I have been in the business for about three years now. I used to only offer lawn maintenance but lately I have a few customers asking me to do chemical applications and sod installations. My main interest at the moment is how to prepare for a sod installation. I have been researching online and from what I have found, it seems it is important to remove the dead grass first, fertilize, and then install the sod. Is this the common practice or should I put down top soil? Any advice would be appreciated.”

A second lawn care business owner said “when I install sod, I perform a soil test first. If the soil is sufficient for sod to grow on, I do not add soil.

Next, I spray to kill all the grass and weeds and let it set in for a day. When I come back the following day with my tractor, I till it all up. My tiller leaves an almost sand consistency to the soil. All the grass will be gone or I rake what is left of the remaining grass. Then I have a section of fence about 6 foot wide and 10 foot long I drag across to level it. It’s a heavy thick chain link fence. Then I spread a good starter fertilizer, lay the sod (watering it in as you go, don’t wait until the end if you have a lot of sod to do. Every 500 sq.ft. or so, water it in. Overlap the sod about half an inch at the seams, that will prevent wash out lines. Run over it with a sod roller and there you go.

How to prepare for a sod installation.

How to prepare for a sod installation.

Also, give it a few days BEFORE you lay the fertilizer or sod if you sprayed killer. Let it neutralize. You don’t want it to kill the new sod! Water the soil the day before you lay the sod, get it good and WET, that way you won’t ‘Shock’ the root system into dormancy. Make sure you are out of the frost timeline before laying sod too, frost can shock the sod as well.

To test the soil. I pull a few plugs of soil, and it takes a day for the test to run. You can buy soil testers online or take the soil to a local tester in your area. I check for PH balance, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels. Then depending upon the readings, I adjust  the fertilizer accordingly. The soil test kit I use have enough content in them for up to 10 tests. Keep a few plastic lock containers with you for the soil plugs.

If you are looking to remove sod on the cheap, something to keep in mind is that sod cutters are used for cutting sod, but you can also use them to cut out small or large areas of grass and turf to be removed. They are good for patch work, but I prefer to just till it all in, as it is a much more efficient method. Unless there were fungal infestations that needs to be addressed. Then I cut those portions out.

If you are working with some real compacted soil, aeration alone isn’t a permanent fix, eventually the soil will compact down again, and will have to be aerated again. Especially heavy clay soils. To remedy this, you can aerate and top dress the lawn, with a river silt or sand material and it will help break up the clay concentration.”

A third shared “the only thing I would add is that we use a sod cutter to remove the old/bad spots. Testing the soil is a must. There is lots of money to be made if the work to make it look great is required. Beside you don’t want it to look like crap after a few weeks because it still has a problem(s).

Fix the existing problems you find with a soil tester before you attempt to make it look great.

When it comes to aerating, you need to understand that aerating a lawn is a TEMPORARY mechanical fix for a problem that can be fixed permanently and correctly (obviously not all situations fit this statement; i.e. sports fields, and other high traffic areas…)

Out here in the southwest, it’s not really practical all the time to till a lawn up. It’s not very open out so equipment can be an issue. Instead cutting a good layer (3/4 to 1) of sod and then adding some top soil, needed fertilizer, and then laying sod works best. If tilling is possible at your job site, I would recommend doing it because it aerates the soil and adds organic material.”

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